Udo Kier’s First Feature Film

Udo Kier plays a rising gang leader in the bleak 1968 crime expose SHAMELESS (German title: Schamlos).

Long before Udo Kier became the go-to eclectic supporting actor who stole his scenes in films such as Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho (1991), the sci-fi fantasy Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Wim Wenders’ The End of Violence (1997) and numerous films by Lars von Trier, the German actor was already firmed established as a cult film icon from the 1970s. In addition to playing the lead in two Andy Warhol productions, Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Blood for Dracula (1974), he starred in the sadistic period piece The Mark of the Devil (1970), Just Jaeckin’s S&M erotica The Story of O (1975), Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and R.W. Fassbinder’s The Third Generation (1979). Kier, who was born in 1944, is still going strong today at age 78 with more than 250 film and TV series in his filmography and a rare leading role in Swan Song (2021), in which he plays a retired hairdresser who agrees to perform one last makeover on a deceased client. But if you want to see him at the beginning of his career, look no further than his debut feature film Shameless (German title, Schamlos, 1968), in which he plays a ruthless young gangster who tries to muscle in on his rival’s business operations in Vienna, Austria.

Udo Kier has a rare starring role in the bittersweet comedy-drama SWAN SONG (2021).
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Face Time

Edie Sedgwick in one of the famous Andy Warhol Screen Tests

For most people the films of Andy Warhol were more fun to read about then to actually watch. In the case of films such as the 485-minute Empire (1964) or Sleep (1963), at 321 minutes, it’s hard to imagine someone watching these in their entirety in one sitting. I don’t even think Warhol expected viewers to watch these in real time but to wander in and out of the screenings like you would at a video installation. But even at revivals of the most popular and infamous Warhol titles such as The Chelsea Girls (1966) and Lonesome Cowboys (1968), you can bet on numerous walkouts during the screenings, not from outrage but boredom or disinterest. At the other end of the scale, however, are the short, silent black and white films he made when he was first experimenting with the medium and his Screen Test series shows a brilliance of concept and execution that could easily turn naysayers into converts.

Dining in the Buff

The idea of a nude restaurant where the clientele and wait staff are composed of various members of Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd such as Taylor Mead and Viva wearing little more than skimpy black briefs may not sound like the most appetizing destination for dining. Yet, as a film, The Nude Restaurant (1967) is a lively, frequently hilarious and occasionally despairing communiqué from the underground for those who have always avoided or dismissed the experimental cinema of Andy Warhol as something boring and interminable based on seeing snippets of 1963’s Sleep (a 321 minute static camera study of John Giorno asleep in bed) or 1964’s Empire (a 485 minute single shot portrait of the Empire State Building from dusk until approximately 3 am) or just reading about them.  Continue reading

Adrift in a L.A. Haze

Anouk Aimée in Jacques Demy's Model Shop (1969)

Anouk Aimée in Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969)

Los Angeles has served as the backdrop for countless Hollywood movies but in Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969), the French director’s first and only American film (if you don’t count the 1984 made-for-TV movie Louisiana), the city becomes the real protagonist. With its sprawling urban landscape, oil derricks, desolate beaches and constant traffic, it  provides a vivid canvas for a contemporary love story about romantic longing, missed connections and unrealized dreams. Film writer Clare Stewart referred to the film in the film journal Senses of Cinema as “a road movie that doesn’t go anywhere” but that’s not a putdown. It’s an apt description of what Demy was trying to create here – a drifting, dreamy mood piece.   Continue reading